BDP leader offers a meeting between PM and jailed PKK leader

A meeting between Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader imprisoned for life, and the Turkish prime minister would be useful for the sake of the peace process that is now stalled, according to the opposition Peace and Democracy Party’s co-chief Demirtaş

 Jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan is willing to meet with politicians from the ruling party, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said, hinting at the idea of a meeting between Öcalan and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Demirtaş’s proposal, which was based on the view that such a meeting would be useful for the sake of the stalled peace process, came as he was speaking about a recent controversy between himself and Erdoğan. The controversy erupted after the Justice Ministry denied Demirtaş’ request to visit Öcalan on Oct.14, reportedly due to his harsh criticism of the recently announced democratization package.

“I wish the prime minister himself would go,” Demirtaş said, speaking with a group of journalists on Oct. 22, after he addressed a meeting of his parliamentary party.

Demirtaş’s tone regarding the controversy over visits to İmralı Island, where Öcalan is serving a life sentence, was rather dampened in comparison to the speech he delivered to his Parliamentary party in which he responded to Erdoğan, who said the decision to send or not to send someone to İmralı belonged entirely to the government.

“I am saying this sincerely, he is the prime minister of this country. Doesn’t he have the right to meet any convict in any prison of Turkey?” said Demirtaş, whose party is closely involved in the process aimed at easing the century-old Kurdish issue through ending the three-decade long armed conflict between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the PKK. He maintained such a meeting would be substantial for the fate of the process.

“Let them discuss this face to face. Both Öcalan and Erdoğan, I believe they will each take a mutual step and this may change a lot of things. I’m not saying this as a crazy idea either,” Demirtaş said, stressing that Öcalan did not mention Erdoğan’s name in particular, but expressed his willingness for meeting “a political counterpart”, either from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) or from the government, but not a bureaucrat.

‘Great efforts should not be wasted’

The BDP will continue to be flexible and will not insist on the visits of certain personalities to İmralı, Demirtaş continued to say, adding Öcalan is still expecting a response from the government to his proposals.

“If the government [intelligence] officials do not come [for further talks], I will presume my proposals as having been refused,” Demirtaş quoted Öcalan as saying.

Recent remarks by Cemil Bayık, the head of the PKK’s political wing, about rekindling an insurgency unless Ankara resuscitates the peace process soon show that the PKK is on the cusp of finalising certain decisions, according to Demirtaş.

“Recently [BDP deputy parliamentary group chairs] Pervin Buldan and İdris Baluken visited Kandil and they received a similar impression. We are warning the government; however, our warnings are being perceived as threats and blackmail. We are using strong language in an attempt to emphasize the severity of the situation,” Demirtaş said.

“Nobody should give up on the process easily. Even if the prime minister gives up, civil society, wise-men, media and the public as whole should pressure [the government] for the continuation of the process. Great efforts have been exerted up until now and everybody is aware of this. I believe the government will also come to the conclusion that it is now time for some practical changes; particularly concerning Öcalan’s physical conditions in İmralı.”

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